Embracing What God Says About Us

pexels-photo-371393.jpeg

Last Friday, I performed a concert at a women’s event and spoke about the lies we believe about ourselves and that if we want to flourish in our lives, then we must drown out the lies with truth by embracing what God says about usOne of the pieces I performed was Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80. Beethoven thought so little of it that he didn’t allow it to be published with an opus number. As I played this piece, projected on the screen behind me were the lies that we believe about ourselves and the truths of what God says about us:

acs_0100

When Beethoven overheard someone playing this piece, he said,

“Such nonsense by me?”

Truth

The 32 Variations in C Minor quickly became popular. It is a masterpiece that is still performed over 200 years later.

Lie

My worth is dependent on how I compare to other people.

My worth is dependent on my performance.

I’m worthless. The world would be better off if I didn’t exist.

I’m not enough.

Truth

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:10 NLT)

Lie

I’m ugly.

I’m too fat. / I’m too skinny. / I’m not the right size.

Truth

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

(Psalm 139:14 NIV)

Lie

I am defined by my accomplishments.

Truth

I am defined by what Jesus has accomplished.

Lie

I am defined by my past.

Truth

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Lie

I’ve messed up too badly. My sin is too big.

Truth

No one is un-redeemable. No sin is too big for the grace of God.

“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:21-22 NLT)

Lie

I’m too young. / I’m too old.

Truth

Miriam (Moses’ sister), David, and Mary were not too young to be used by God for great things.

Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth, and Anna the prophetess were not too old to leave their mark on history.

Lie

Because I’m a woman, I’m less than a man.

I’m overbearing. My emotions are too much.

I’m bossy./I’m not assertive enough. My personality isn’t right.

Truth

I am created in the image of God.

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

(Genesis 1:27, 31 NIV)

“The Creator of the universe didn’t just love and speak us into being. He also called us good–the same word He called the massive, majestic oceans and the sun that lights our solar system and keeps us all sustained. (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Lie

I’m not lovable. I don’t deserve God’s love.

Truth

I am loved.

God loves me so much that He died for me.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Lie

“But I’ll only be loved if I add value/have something to offer.”

Truth

Love is not about merit; love is about grace.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” (1 John 4:10, 18-19 NLT)

Lie

God has overlooked me. I’ve been set aside.

Truth

I am handpicked by God. I am chosen. I am set apart for a purpose.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NLT)

Lie

I am insignificant and have nothing of value.

Truth

I am an heiress. (Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 3:7)

God is for me. (Romans 8:31)

I am part of a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Lie

I’m not important.

Truth

I’m God’s ambassador.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT)

“We have been given great authority through Christ! We’re called to action! And that passage says it’s as if God is making His appeal through us! Ladies, you are not called to sit on your hands in silence. You are called by our great God to run wild into our culture, calling out an incredible message of life: ‘God loves you! World! God loves you and made a way for you! Come with me! You don’t have to live lost and alone! My Dad has a place for you! He sees you as His ultimate treasure!” (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Lie

God doesn’t hear me when I pray.

Truth

“I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.” (Psalm 77:1 ESV)

“Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.” (Daniel 10:12 NLT)

Lie

“Am I doing a good enough job at everything I’m doing? It needs to be perfect or else it is not effective. I’m not good enough.” -college student

“I struggled for a long time believing that I was unintelligent. It doesn’t seem to matter how well I did in school, I always felt like I was just getting lucky, or had to work too hard to “get it”, or that I was just a fake.  -a high school teacher who has a PhD

I’m not creative / inspiring / smart / strong enough.

Truth

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT)

Lie

I just can’t do what God is calling me to do.

Truth

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2 NIV)

Lie

I can’t take the next step until I have everything figured out and can see the entire path ahead of me.

Truth

God lights our path one step at a time. He reveals His way as we step out in faith. If you want to see what’s farther ahead, you have to take the next step.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalms 77:19 NLT)

Lie

“God doesn’t see me.”

Truth

I’m God’s treasure, the apple of His eye.

“Our standing has never wavered with our Father. Though the world has twisted what it means to be a daughter, His stance and His position toward us has absolutely stayed resolute.” (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free, p 33)

“I will be a Father to you,

and you will be my sons and daughters,

says the Lord Almighty.”

(2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)

I am a daughter of God.

pexels-photo-371433.jpeg

Resources to Help You Preach Truth to Yourself

This devotional:

Always Enough, Never Too Much: 100 Devotions to Quit Comparing, Stop Hiding, and Start Living Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

This book that inspired the above devotional:

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

This little book you can carry in your purse:

Garden of Truth, by Ruth Chou Simons

 

 

A Theology of Taking a Nap

pexels-photo-305556.jpeg

Between the end of semester craziness that comes with being a professor and prepping for a big event where I’m performing a concert and speaking, the past month has been non-stop. And then there are the dishes and laundry I can’t keep up with, the pile of books to read for research for my first book, and the pieces I’m learning for upcoming recitals. My life is a bit scattered in different directions and I love it.

But my body and mind have their limits. I’ve been waking up exhausted every morning. My mind has slowed down from all the reading, creating, and memorizing. And as exciting as a lot of the things I’m doing are, I find myself feeling more discouraged than exhilarated.

So on Saturday, I decided to do something I’ve been needing to do for a long time:

I took a nap.

“It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:2

But how on earth could I possibly take a nap when I have so many things to do? I believe in hard work; the Bible has a lot of harsh things to say about laziness. But this doesn’t give me permission to abuse the body God has entrusted me to steward. I only have one, after all.

But there’s another reason I can rest during seasons of high stress:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”
“Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.”
I can rest because it’s not all up to me.
We weren’t made to work non-stop. If God has called you to do something for His Kingdom, then it’s too great for you to accomplish on your own. You need divine help from the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who has the power to carry our burdens, and can do infinitely more than we can possible imagine.

So if you’re in the midst of a season of weariness, it’s possible that most holy thing you can do is take a nap.

Tearing Down Idols

pexels-photo-158834.jpeg

“When you work on your book proposal, stop reading.”

These words of wisdom were spoken to me by an author I admire during a coaching call. A coaching call that I had prayed about as the scheduled date grew near. A coaching call that I was so excited for that I struggled to fall asleep the night before. A coaching call that melted away my fears about writing my first book and caused faith to well up inside of me. I felt like my life was changing in that hour and I was ready to take all her words and run with them. At least, I thought I was. But amidst all of the wonderful things I didn’t expect her to say, she said the thing I really didn’t expect her to say: “When you work on your book proposal, stop reading.”

I panicked. What?!? Stop reading? What am I going to do? How am I going to make it through a season of high pressure writing if I can’t find rest in my books? I don’t know if I can do it! I need my books!

And that’s when I realized that my books weren’t just objects I loved; they had become an idol.

Books are good. They allow me a chance to be taught by great minds. They give me an outlet to rest and use my imagination. They help me grow as a communicator, artist, and Christian. Books make me a better person.

But at times, I allow them to take too much of my time (and money). I’ve been guilty of turning to a book for help before bringing my problems to God. It’s so easy for me to find my rest in books in place of being still in the presence of the Refuge Himself. And for a brief moment during my coaching call, books were more important to me than being obedient to God’s call on my life.

In the Ten Commandments, it’s not an accident that the first command, “You shall have no other gods before me,” is immediately followed by the command forbidding idols. God is to be first and most in our lives, but we have a knack for turning literally anything into something that dethrones Him from first place.

Where I am living now (a small city in Midwest, USA), carved idols aren’t paraded on the streets like other places I’ve lived. Our idols are more subtle, subjective, personal. Idols can be anything.

“…we do not usually make little statuettes of gold and silver and then worship them. But idolatry knows no cultural or temporal barriers. We have four-wheeled idols whose worshipers spend all their effort and money polishing them and driving them faster and faster. We have three-bedroomed idols, whose devotees have to keep them spotlessly clean in case visitors should come. We have square idols with silver screens. Some of us have well-bound idols with pages and dust jackets.”

(N. T. Wright, Small Faith, Great God)

“We love so many things more than we love our holy and fearful God. We love sports, our stuff, our churches, and our rules. We love our friends, our kids, and our reputations. We love creativity, our homes, and our opinions more than we love God. Ladies, I’ll give it to you straight. Some days I feel like the candles in my house get more praise and devotion and thankfulness than my God gets.”

(Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Like my books, it’s so easy to justify our idols, to use their usefulness for good to conceal what we have allowed them to become. But when we peel away the mask, their ugliness comes to light and we see why God would be hard on His people when it comes to idolatry. There is so much God wants for us, but idols get in the way.

Idols are unable to redeem people and situations, to turn mourning into dancing, to make dry bones walk. They keep us from being able to fully experience the Giver of Life and from experiencing the abundant life He intended for us.

Idols cannot answer our prayers, cannot be with us everywhere we go the way God can. God hears and listens to us when we cry out to Him. Even when He is silent and works in ways that confound us, He is still with us, still listening.

The devotion we give to idols robs us of opportunities to hear the voice of God in our daily lives, reminders of how He loves us, divine whispers of ways we can show His love to others.

The things or people we turn into idols are too small to be worshipped. Only the One, Living God is worthy of worship because He created the universe and everything in it; He keeps the Earth, sun, moon, and stars in motion; and He is the One who holds all things together. He cares so much about us that He knows the number of hairs on our heads, keeps count of our tossings, and puts our tears in His bottle. And He loves us so much that even though He knew our hearts would be prone to wander far from Him, He shaped the narrative of the world so that at the perfect time and place in history, He could redeem us. And His history shaping work is nowhere near done. We still have yet to go further up and further in!

When we look at who God is and what He has done, it seems ludicrous to treat Him like He is anything less, to give Him any other place in our lives than first.

So how do we tear down our modern-day idols? By spending more and more time gazing upon the wonderfulness of God.

Singing My Theology, No. 2

pexels-photo-92083.jpegI’m a bibliophile. I live in a house that is overflowing with books. One of my favorite genres? Theology. Aside from the Bible, wanna guess what my first theology book ever was? Not some masterpiece by Augustine, Bonhoeffer, or even C. S. Lewis.

My very first theology book was Wee Sing Bible Songs…complete with a cassette tape. I acquired this priceless gem around the first grade. I had never heard of the word “theology,” yet deep theological truths were sinking deep into my heart as I sang along with the cassette tape that played over and over and over again in my parents’ car.

Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me…

God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He’s so good to me…

I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river in my soul…I’ve got joy like a fountain. I’ve got joy like a fountain…

The songs we sing matter. I don’t remember any sermons from the first decade of my life, but the songs I sang are still imprinted in my memory.

In the months that led up to my lupus diagnosis, my body was frail. I couldn’t keep down food and lost about 20 pounds in two and a half months. (If you don’t know me, I’m 4′ 10″, so those 20 pounds were significant.) I couldn’t get out of bed or squeeze a tube of toothpaste on my own. Simple things like walking and playing the piano were excruciating. This is when I truly began to understand: They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me…

At first, I was hopeful that it wasn’t anything serious, and even if it was, certainly God would heal me soon. But as time went on with my health getting worse and no answers from the doctors, I felt like my time in this world might be coming to a close. And one evening, I asked my husband sit beside me as I lay in bed. Through tears, I let him know I loved him and told him my dying wish. I was sad at the thought of leaving him behind so young, but I was no longer afraid of death or what the future may hold. I had peace. I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river…

I remember wanting to read my Bible, but my fingers were too weak to hold such a bulky book. So I spent a lot of time lying in bed, alone with my thoughts. Nothing to distract me from the tender voice of God. I still cherish those moments. Yes, they were excruciating, but God’s presence was so sweet. I prayed with rawness and honesty; I didn’t have the energy to offer dignified prayers. And as I silently poured out my heart, God wrapped me in His loving arms. God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He’s so good to me…

Someone once told me that there’s something about suffering that changes a person; suffering refines us. It is suffering that has taught me the depth and richness of the words I sang as a girl. And as chronic illness brings pain and challenges to daily life, these songs keep my mind fixed on the God who is strong and good, who loves me, and who fills my soul with peace and joy.